Laser Technology

We are leveraging successes with high-energy, solid-state lasers to advance electric technology through the Army's Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI), as well as under a contract for the Revolution in Fiber Lasers (RIFL) program from DARPA. By improving efficiency and beam quality. Both offer scalable and affordable approaches for military users.

Beam Control

beam controlAdaptive optics (AO) is a critical part of the beam control system for a tactical laser weapon. As the high energy laser (HEL) propagates through the air to the target, atmospheric turbulence degrades the quality of the beam and reduces its effectiveness. Adaptive optics senses these atmospheric disturbances and pre-compensates the outgoing HEL beam to restore its mission performance capability. For the past several years, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems has been developing AO systems specifically for tactical laser weapons using an experimental testbed.

Consisting of a wavefront sensor, a deformable mirror, and a control processor, the testbed AO system seeks to correct for turbulence induced disturbances in a low-power laser beam transmitted from another building some distance away. This testbed allows the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems beam control team to evaluate various sensor configurations as well as processing and control algorithms and architectures. The compensated beam puts more than eight times the peak intensity on the target than an uncompensated beam. This is an extremely cost effective way to increase the energy delivered to the target for a tactical laser weapon.

Fiber Laser

Fiber LaserNorthrop Grumman is developing single-frequency fiber amplifiers for the new Revolution in Fiber Lasers (RIFL) program by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The RIFL program takes a similar approach to maturing fiber laser technology as Northrop Grumman demonstrated for solid-state lasers through support from U.S. military services and government agencies -- by designing the building blocks needed to combine laser beams that can be scaled to a weapons-class power level while maintaining good beam quality.

Fiber lasers are 1.5 to 2 times more efficient than solid-state lasers, delivering more laser power per weight and volume. High beam quality and efficiency make fiber laser technology, intrinsically, ideal to pursue in parallel with solid-state lasers, the company noted.

The company has previously scaled narrow band fiber lasers to powers of 400 W by combining multiple fiber amplifiers with a near perfect beam quality of 1.1. Key goals of the DARPA contract are demonstration of single frequency fiber amplifiers at 1kW in the 15-month first phase and 3kW at the end of the 18-month second phase.

Solid State Laser

Solid State Laser SytemHigh-power, solid-state technology has great potential to provide the military with a multi-platform, multi-mission capability. Weaponized electric lasers will complement kinetic systems, bringing speed-of-light, ultra-precision and force protection to the battlefield.

With deep magazines and scalable in power to address specific threats, these operational weapons will provide crucial defensive military advantages at the strategic, operational and tactical levels of warfare.

Successes in power level, run time and beam quality under the JHPSSL program led to the development of the Maritime Laser Demonstration for the U.S. Navy, where the company in 2011 became the first to successfully operate a laser weapon at sea.

JHPSSL technology also is the underlying technology for the company's FIRESTRIKE laser product line introduced in 2009 that builds on its heritage of record-breaking, high-energy, solid state lasers. Since that time, Northrop Grumman has invested internal funds to fabricate, integrate, and test a demonstration prototype of the FIRESTRIKE laser called Gamma.

Laser and Beam Control Technology

 Laser and Beam Control TechnologyNorthrop Grumman is the birthplace of many exciting, leading-edge laser and beam control technologies that hold tremendous promise for our nation's defense. Laser scientists and engineers here were the first to meet the exceptionally demanding goals of the Joint High Power Solid-State Laser Program (JHPSSL) Phase 3 program to scale a solid-state laser to the 100 kW power level.

The technical staff is supported by an infrastructure unique in the aerospace and defense industry, including the Directed Energy Production Facility, a specialized facility established exclusively for system integration and production of high-energy laser systems for military uses. The facility is the first of its kind built by private industry in the United States.

Directed Energy Systems turn ideas into designs and designs into products that meet the rigorous demands of our customers. We have extensive laboratories for optical fabrication and test, as well as clean rooms, vacuum chambers and related equipment for space simulation, calibration and performance testing of lasers ranging in power from watts to megawatts. The precision metrology lab is unique in its ability to characterize the performance of high-energy laser optics.

The company's expertise in solid-state lasers and chemical lasers is unmatched. Multiple development efforts are ongoing for high-power, solid-state lasers in the post-JHPSSL era, the Strategic Illuminator Laser Program (SILL), and our in-house development of Vesta. 19 kW with a beam quality of 1.7 that was a world record for brightness. The Vesta solid-state laser has demonstrated indefinite run time at a power level of 15 kW, and a beam quality of 1.3, and we are currently scaling to the 100kW power level. In addition to our solid-state and chemical laser efforts, we have extensive on-going development efforts in Beam Control and high power Fiber Lasers.

Whether it's for homeland security, U.S military applications, or for aiding our allies, Northrop Grumman's lasers are well suited to advanced applications from land, sea, air and space.

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